Is Preet Bharara missing the forest for the trees?

In Dr. Devyani Khobragade Vs. Sangeeta Richard the big question is – “Who’s the culprit?”. This one question has seeded many more –  Is either of them to blame and the other a victim or is it a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Does India only stand up for the rights of those who are privileged; has Sangeeta Richard always been a CIA agent and did the US fear that her cover was about to be blown? Is it a case of human trafficking or an immigration fraud? Did the US overreact or is India trying to shift the focus from the “core” issue? Was Sangeeta Richard living in a two-room independent access apartment with all necessary amenities or was Sangeeta Richard a much hassled hapless women being made to work over 18 hours a day? All these questions are valid and I suspect we are not likely to find answers to these any time soon.

This is the most likely scenario, though –

  • Devyani Khobragade’s husband a US-born gentleman of Indian origin pushes Devyani to get a US posting. She manages to get that, thanks to her contacts and her family’s good offices with many in the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • Now, Devyani Khobragade needs a maid cum nanny.
  • Sangeeta Richard is offered and accepts – Rs 30,000/- in India + $100 a week pocket allowance + boarding & lodging + 1 trip to India every year + likelihood of green card for herself and her family.
  • Sangeeta Richard gets to see all-paid high-profile lifestyle of Devyani and starts understanding that Devyani spends (irrespective of whose money it is or who pays for it) more money on throwing one party at her home than what she makes in a month.
  • Sangeeta Richard is incited by her family in India, in-laws in senior US diplomatic staff’s home in India and new and old acquaintances on foolhardiness of waiting for Devyani’s term to be over to get her family to the US.
  • She is put in touch with a nonprofit, Safe Horizon; the cover of  a victim under their anti-trafficking program can now be provided to her. Safe Horizon believes in all unproven allegations of mistreatment and doesn’t see or chooses to overlook an opportunistic, well planned abuse of the US system for seeking an immigrant status for herself and her family. Safe Horizon’s staff attorney Dana Sussman sees it as a huge opportunity to build her own profile and that of Safe Horizon.
  • As the matter is sensitive it quickly reaches to highest judicial officer for this matter, in this case Preet Bharara, U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Preet Bharara, a much celebrated and decorated officer is a naturalized US citizen of Indian birth and ethnicity and he has grown very quickly in the Government.
  • Preet Bharara wants to be seen as doing the right thing and decides to go all out to support the “white” attorney of a beleaguered “Indian” housemaid against an Indian consulate official (who are not always loved by a number of Indian-Americans anyway).
  • Preet Bharara or the American diplomat in India don’t see India taking the matter beyond a stage and foresee a quick settlement and financial compensation for Sangeeta Richard and end of the matter. They understand they are the mighty US – the most powerful nation in the world – and India still a developing nation and is currently neck-deep in economic mess.
  • Devyani Khobragade uses her own contacts to get even with Sangeeta Richard & her family.
  • Pushed by Sangeeta’s concern for her family’s well-being in India (which has now turned hostile towards her), Preet Bharara’s office and Dana Sussman and her team decide to press the buzzer. They are looking at enormous public sympathy in both India and the US and no racial or related angles attached.
  • Everyone wants to earn brownie points and at some stage the officers overlook any possibility of the whole thing horribly going – wrong for every single individual and entity involved.
  • A deal is worked out between Sangeeta Richard, her attorney and Preet Bharara’s office which includes Sangeeta Richard cooperating, attorney ensuring trafficked persons status to her and Preet Bharara ensuring visa and “evacuation” to safety for her family from India.
  • Preet Bharara and others miss the forest for the trees, all hell breaks loose.

The above flow is not a timeline or a sequence of events, it is my best guess as I stitch together a likely scenario.

*** This article is a work in progress, thank you. ***